They Drew As They Pleased: The Hidden Art Of Disney’s Golden Age: The 1930s by Didier Ghez (book review).

Didier Ghez in his introduction to ‘They Drew As They Pleased: The Hidden Art Of Disney’s Golden Age: The 1930s’ that his books aren’t going to focus on the well-known Disney animators but on the concept designers. The people who designed what the animators brought to life. That should make you stop and think if you thought they were one and the same thing. They are different disciplines and although some started off as inbetweeners, the laborious detail between major movements, those with design ability were quickly moved to that section.

They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age: The 1930s by Didier Ghez and introduction by Pete Docter (Chronicle Books, £25)

The first in this book is Swiss born Albert Hurter (1883-1943). From all the descriptions and his behaviour habits, he was a geek before there was a name for us folk. A recognised talent, Hurter was allowed to draw whatever he wanted and when it came to the big films, from ‘Snow White’ to ‘Lady And The Tramp’, he was the concept designer. Seeing the pages of sketches included here, I wish there were more than the few that actually related to the films. However, when you look at what is presented here, you can see why his work was so highly regarded. Looking at the high prices his 1948 book, ‘He Drew As He Pleased’ currently goes for, isn’t it about time someone did a reprint of it?

Page 140: A visually striking concept painting for the short Little Hiawatha by one of Disney’s most talented concept artists, the Swedish Gustaf Tenggren

Unlike Hurter, Hungarian born Ferdinand Horvath (1891-1973) tended to stay within the demand of what was needed for the various cartoons and worked for several animation houses when contracts loomed. For Disney, he was principally in the animation shorts with the likes of Mickey Mouse and did some designs for ‘Snow White’. The pictures from sketches are far more principled but equally interesting and detailed. It’s rather interesting to see the earlier Goofy designs amongst them.

Page 169: The despair of Geppetto by Gustaf Tenggren

Then we have the Swedish Gustaf Tenggren (1896-1970) who worked briefly on ‘Snow White’ but contributed heavily to ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Bambi’ and ‘Fantasia’. The pictures with his biography don’t do just to the actual pages of paintings and sketches because they are the essence of these films and the animation was built on his designs and characters. Truly remarkable and getting better as I go through this book.

Page 198: Early Tinker Bell design by Bianca Majolie 1/80 s, R86.3, G57.8, B64.5
© Disney Enterprises Inc Repro_2.2_v2 Xrite_021113_WDARL_BL2 White_021113_WDARL_BL2-blur

Finally, we have Bianca Majorie (1900-1997), the first woman into the story department. Disney couldn’t justify the cost of training women for important roles like animation and such because when they had children they wouldn’t come back. The information given here also shows the animators tended to swear and be an all-male company and Majorie had problems adapting not to mention enacting the gags to the rest of them. Although it burnt her out, seeing her ideas being ripped up, she finally became a story person, working out what needed to be changed in the likes of ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Bambi’ and Cinderella’ plots to make it work as films, often drawing along the way. She also contributed to the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ stage of ‘Fantasia’. This section also looks at some of the other women who were at the company for a time. An interesting side note was the women weren’t paid as much as the men even back then.

The histories alone are worth the price of admission for giving insight into these people but the sketches are something else and with a lot of sight gags as well. There are two more volumes in this collection and based on this one, I’m looking forward to an interesting read,

GF Willmetts

September 2017

(pub: Chronicle Books, 2015. 208 page oblong illustrated hardback. Price: £25.00 (UK), $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4521-3743-8)

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